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Where are the SDG-champions?


Healthcare companies were expected to play a pivotal role in the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

In particular, concrete action from healthcare companies would be crucial for SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. But how have the SDGs affected the world of healthcare and vice versa? A year after the SDGs were formally adopted, we selected 26 B2C companies in the pharmaceutical industry and examined how they have communicated their SDG activities.

Our analysis shows that 100% of these pharmaceutical companies have embraced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – the logical home for SDG initiatives. All of these companies also measure and communicate their CSR progress and achievements. However, when it comes to the SDGs, the numbers nose dive. While 71% of Global 500 firms are involved in public-private partnerships, only 36% seem to be collaborating for the purpose of SDG implementation.

While 71% of Global 500 firms have made a clear statement on SDGs and 57% mention SDGs on their websites, the numbers for companies actually carrying out SDG-related actions are less impressive. Only half of the 71% of Global 500 firms who mention SDGs actually seem to be doing something about them. Only 21% are reporting their contributions, and a nominal 14% are communicating their methods for measuring their progress.

 A shift towards healthier living and increasing regulatory pressure are forcing the food and beverage (F&B) industry to adapt. But the SDGs have given F&B companies a clear, globally-acknowledged framework which they can use to address these challenges.

To gain a clearer picture of the work currently being done in relation to the SDGs, we sampled 39 F&B companies based in Europe, Asia, and the US. Of these, 19 are Fortune 500 companies. And they serve a wide range of customers.

The F&B industry has made CSR a priority across the board, with most companies making it an integral part of their business. However, just like the healthcare companies, it’s a different story for SDG initiatives. A closer look shows that while B2C-focused F&B companies have embraced SDGs, B2B firms have stuck to CSR. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the numbers surrounding SDG statements: 45% of B2C firms have made an official statement about SDGs, but only 10% of B2B companies have done the same.

The rest of our research makes for even more desolate reading considering the huge opportunity the SDGs have created for companies in the F&B sector. Not one of the companies we analysed is measuring and reporting their progress relating to the SDGs – a cynic might even conclude the SDGs are being treated as a marketing ploy by the industry.

The silver lining?

Pioneering companies still have the chance to showcase their thought leadership by implementing a results-based SDG programme. But they should act now because the well of opportunity will dry up quickly.

Lukasz Bochenek

Managing Director / Deputy CEO, based in Geneva

Lukasz is Managing Director for Switzerland, Belgium and UK offices as well as deputy CEO for Leidar. He oversees key international client projects and relationships. In addition, he manages external partnerships and memberships of Leidar. 

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